Since the American Cancer Society announced last month that it was changing its recommendations on when and how often women should receive mammograms to screen for breast cancer, a chorus of dissents has been heard. Adding her voice Sunday was Sandra Lee, the chef, author, TV personality and longtime partner of Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York.

The Society now recommends that women receive their first mammograms at age 45 instead of age 40. And it says women over age 55 no longer need to get annual mammograms, but instead should get them every other year.

In an Op-Ed article in The New York Post on Sunday, the 49-year-old Lee called the decision “perplexing.”

“I’m concerned by this seismic shift in women’s health because I’m one of the ACS’s estimated 294,130 women who received a breast cancer diagnosis this year,” Lee said.

She added: “I’m cancer-free — thanks to early detection in a routine annual mammogram, at age 48. Breast-cancer death rates in women have been on the decline since 1989, and the biggest decrease has been in women under 50 — a testament to treatment advances and early detection.”

We applaud Lee for speaking out. Her personal battle against breast cancer has been much more public that most patients’, and her recuperation, along with some setbacks, have been documented in the media. She could have remained silent and avoided having the spotlight fall on her again.

We also applaud the strong stand taken by Dr. Susan R. Drossman, a clinical professor of radiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine who has a private practice in breast imaging in New York; Dr. Elisa R. Port, Mount Sinai’s Chief of Breast Surgery and Co-Director of the Dubin Breast Center; and Dr. Emily B. Sonnenblick, a breast radiologist at the Dubin Center, in a New York Times Op-Ed last Wednesday. Each of the women has been honored by the American Cancer Society as “Mothers of the Year” for their roles as mothers and physicians who have devoted their careers to fighting breast cancer.

“Because of our shared goals — early detection of breast cancer, improved treatments and saving lives — we were happy to support the cancer society,” they wrote. “Now, we no longer wish to be involved.”

We at Women’s Voice for Change have endorsed the value of mammograms repeatedly, and Dr. Port, who along with Dr. Drossman is a member of our Medical Advisory Board, wrote in September 2012 about the importance of mammography, addressing recommendations by the United States Prevention Services Task Force — the government agency officially charged with recommending which medical procedures should be routine, and for whom — that women could wait until age 50 for mammograms.

“While anecdotes and personal experience are not criteria for making recommendations for the general population, those of us who take care of breast cancer patients on a daily basis and make it our life’s work see cases every day exemplifying why mammography works,” wrote Dr. Port, a member of our Medical Advisory Board. “Yes, there are cancers that are missed on mammogram. And yes, there are patients who do not get mammograms who develop breast cancers that are completely curable and survivable. But for the vast majority of women, the data clearly shows that mammograms save lives and result in less invasive and extensive treatment for many women. The harms related to mammography are exaggerated and need to be kept in perspective as mostly tolerable and completely non-life-threatening.  When it comes to recommending yearly mammograms and affirming that mammograms save lives, let’s stop getting hung up on technicalities. Let’s stop re-crunching the numbers until they give us a different answer, and accept what the data demonstrates: From age 40—not age 50—yearly mammograms save lives.”

With all news that emerges regarding breast cancer screenings and treatment, we also support what Dr. Port wrote just last week on our website:

“For now, we who are on the front lines of cancer treatment taking care of women (and men) with breast cancer every day look at each case in detail and work with each person to decide jointly what is best for each particular case. In general, the data shows that the treatment choices that we and our patients make together are sound and should not be a continued source of anxiety, confusion, and second guessing. Let’s at least make that part clear because our patients deserve that.”

 

Join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Kelly November 5, 2015 at 11:33 pm

    Lee finds the American Cancer Society’s decision “perplexing” – like millions of other women are confused by it – because of a poor and faulty understanding of the value of mammography due to having been fed (“educated” or rather brainwashed) all their lives with a very one-sided biased pro-mammogram set of information circulated by the big business of mainstream medicine.

    Lee’s misguided ignorance is also evident in her praise of the orthodox cancer doctors who spoke out against that decisicion in the NYT piece because…….IF…….. she and women (and men) at large were to examine the mammogram data above and beyond the information of the mammogram business cartel (eg American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, Komen), they’d also find that it is almost exclusively the big profiteers of the test (eg radiologists, oncologists, medical trade associations, breast cancer “charities” etc) who promote the mass use of the test and that most pro-mammogram “research” is conducted by people with massive vested interests tied to the mammogram industry.

    Contrary to the official narrative (which is based on medical business-fabricated pro-mammogram “scientific” data), there is marginal, if any, reliable evidence that mammography reduces mortality from breast cancer in a significant way in any age bracket but a lot of solid evidence shows the procedure does provide more serious harm than serious benefit (read: Peter Gotzsche’s ‘Mammography Screening: Truth, Lies and Controversy’ and Rolf Hefti’s ‘The Mammogram Myth’ – see synopsis at TheMammogramMyth dot com).

    Because of this one-sided promotion and marketing of the test by the medical business, women have been obstructed from making an “informed choice” about its benefits and risks which have been inaccurately depicted by the medical industry, favoring their business interests.

    Operating and reasoning based on this false body of information is the reason why very few women understand, for example, that a lot of breast cancer survivors are victims of harm instead of receivers of benefit. Therefore, almost all breast cancer “survivors” blindly repeat the official medical hype and nonsense.

    Clearly, the majority of the public still has not realized that modern allopathic medicine is largely a self-serving business instead of an objective selfless service. It’s a sign of effective dissemination of medical propaganda, not that they know the real truth about cancer and mammography.

    Reply
  • Leslie in Oregon November 4, 2015 at 2:51 am

    Thank you.

    Reply
  • Roz Warren November 3, 2015 at 9:54 am

    Terrific piece! My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 54, as were two of my first cousins. My yearly mammogram gives me peace of mind.

    Reply